I often argue that professionals should share their knowledge online via blogging.
The catch is that virtually anything worthwhile in life takes time and effort, and blogging is not an exception to this statement. So before committing your energy to such an endeavor, you may rightfully stop and wonder what’s in it for you. Is blogging really worth it?
In this article, I briefly illustrate some of the main benefits that directly derive from running a technical blog.
1. Blogging can improve your communication skills
Communication and writing, much like programming, are skills honed through countless hours of practice. As you work hard at articulating your thoughts into words, you’ll find that the process ends up improving your ability to express yourself. And communication is key, almost regardless of your profession.
Over time, you’ll become a faster and better technical writer, who’s able to come up with an insightful essay or tutorial in just an hour or two.
Even better, you’ll be able to concisely formulate confusing or undefined thoughts into exact words. Vague thoughts that you considered in your head will either prove to be valid and gain strength throughout the process of formalizing them into words, or quickly fall apart as flawed ideas once you see them on the screen.
This habit will make you not only a better communicator, but also a better, clearer thinker.
2. Blogging can improve your technical skills
One of the most successful learning technique I know is to try to teach what you’re currently learning yourself to other people.
The process of explaining something to others quickly solidifies your knowledge and outlines its shortcomings, exposing your own doubts about the material you’re studying. This is why writing down and paraphrasing a book, something bright student often do, is a powerful technique that helps retain and clarify your understanding of the information you’re gathering.
As a blogger, you are likely to improve your technical skills because you are forced to research further topics in order to properly share them with the public. You might be corrected by commenters who know more about the subject than you do, and learn a lot from them in the process. As well you may learn more as others expand on what you had to say within their blogs, or perhaps force you to answer more questions about the topic than you thought about in the first place.
As I mentioned in my book, blogging is just as much as teaching as it is about starting a conversation. These conversations will often help increase your expertise and well-roundedness.
The collaborative power of blogging was truly highlighted and pushed to the limit by the Fields medalist Professor Timothy Gowers with his Polymath Project, in which his blog and commenting section was used to figure out unsolved mathematical problems collaboratively.
3. Blogging can provide you with a repository for your knowledge
Some people like to use personal wikis for this purpose, but blogging can be an excellent way to keep track of information you intend to retrieve at a later stage. For example many programmers use their own old posts to find particular snippets of code, the exact steps to configure a server, or a given URL for a useful service they blogged about.
At times you’ll find that googling for a given problem will bring up an article from your own blog that you may very well have forgotten about. (And if that post doesn’t solve your problem, you can curse your past self for not providing more details back when you wrote it.)
Looking back at your old posts is also a great way to keep track of progress, and have access to a timeline of what you were dealing with, thinking, and doing at a given moment in the past. It’s fun to look back once in a while and introspect about how far you’ve come. This can often provide you with glimpses of insight about where your career and professional interests are headed.
4. Blogging can help make powerful connections
Technical blogging injects you into an online community of fellow professionals who are passionate about the topic they are writing about. If you are contributing valuable information and insight, and link to others, you’ll likely end up on the radar of these people, and ultimately connect with other world class players in your field.
Blogging is certainly cheaper than flying across the world non-stop to meet all these folks at expensive conferences (though blogging is not a substitute for in-person human interaction).
Society functions through people interacting, connecting, and networking. How you use this opportunity is up to you, but it can definitely be a boost for your career, business, or even life in general to be in touch with other experts in the field of your choice.
5. Blogging can help you make friends
Even better than powerful acquaintances are friends. As a prominent blogger you’ll get to meet and interact with a wealth of people online. If you’re social and available to others, you’ll end up making friends (influential and less influential ones alike) online.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve come to know thanks to my technical blogs.
Sometimes it’s a case of someone who comments often and you get to know them better through this route. Other times it is a fellow blogger. Often, it’s someone who noticed you through your blog and gets in touch via email. If you are fairly popular in your field, you may even get the occasional ego boosting, “Oh, I follow your blog” when introducing yourself at meetups or trade conferences.
6. Blogging can provide you with a second income
Most bloggers live under the false assumption that you can’t make serious money from running a blog on the side. They understand that if you dedicate yourself full-time, there is money to be made, but they severely underestimate how much revenue you can generate with just a couple of hours of your time per week. They’ve tried or heard horror stories from people making mere pennies with AdSense, and assume that they can’t monetize their own blog unless they’re really famous.
A few hundred dollars a month from your blog is absolutely within the reach of any professional out there. If you do everything right, and put in the work required, your blog can even make you thousands of dollars, both directly and indirectly.
My technical blogs make me a few thousand dollars every month, and I often end up not touching them for weeks at the time. Blogging is not passive income, but if you know what you are doing, all the content you produce compounds and ends up providing you with a substantial income – even when you neglect the blog for a few weeks or months at a time.
Blogging can provide you with some serious extra income that you can then use to finance your hobby, buy gadgets, pay off debt, or do whatever else you desire. It’s a really nice feeling to receive a few extra checks each month, and it will further motivate you to continue blogging.
In my book I cover in great detail how I go about monetizing my blogs, but I’ll also talk more about this subject on this site (subscribe via feed or email if you’d like to be notified of such future articles).
7. Blogging can score you freebies
Publishers and PR firms have become aware of the influence bloggers have on targeted audiences. Even as a mildly successful blogger, you can expect to be contacted by a multitude of people offering you freebies. Depending on your niche and field, these offers will typically be for books, but it’s not uncommon to receive offers for other items, including tickets for conferences, gadgets, software, etc.
As long as you disclose your affiliation (in a way that makes the FTC happy), it’s actually very nice to routinely receive freebies of this kind. If you like what you receive, you can then blog about that product and review it for your readers.
Often, if you establish good relationships with publishers and PR firms, you can even organize giveaway contests which benefit your readers, not just yourself.
8. Blogging can advance your career
A few of the previous benefits I mentioned have already revealed how blogging can have a positive impact in your career. However, I’d like to stress just how much blogging can open certain doors for you. Every post you make is a new opportunity to get people to notice you on a professional level.
Because of my blogs, but primarily my programming one, I’ve received countless job offers over the years, including some from a selection of the largest and most sought after companies in the world. Some offered me generous relocation packages to the US, and a few went so far as to offer me the job, no questions asked (e.g., they didn’t even require a formal interview, they had sized me up enough through my blog writing).
I got my job at IBM in Canada mainly thanks to my blog (at the time I was still in Europe).
Whether blogging allows you to find a new job, customers, partners, investors, publishers who are interested in having you authoring a book, or something else entirely, it is certainly a great career booster.
In fact, my number one piece of advice for new professionals who are interested in building their careers is to start blogging today.
9. Blogging can make you popular in your field
Most professionals work hard because they want to be successful and gain recogniztion in their field. Blogging aides with that and can make small celebrities out of regular professionals. For those in the tech world, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Names like Joel Spolsky, Derek Sivers, Steve Yegge, and Scott Hanselman come to mind.
I’m reminded of Joey Roth’s “Charlatan, Martyr, Hustler” poster. If you do incredible work but nobody knows about it you are a martyr. If you accomplish nothing and do no work, but talk a sweet talk, you are a charlatan. If you can walk the walk, and talk the talk, then you are a hustler.
Blogging helps you ensure that you can talk the talk and reach the right audience, once you have walked the walk.
10. Blogging can help you reach and teach a wide audience
The number one reason to blog for many people, is the desire to share their knowledge and teach others.
For some, even in the technical realm, it’s a matter of politics. For example, an Agile development professional may actually want to influence the community and advocate his theories and ideas about the process of developing software, so that they (potentially) become widespread.
Others, may use this teaching tool to promote their technical projects. An example, also from the software development world, is blogging to help people become aware, loyal, and eventually proficient in an open source tool that you created.
As you can imagine, these are just some of the many benefits of blogging. As you begin creating your own blog posts, you’ll likely find that some of them fall into place organically, whereas you need to work at others. All however, stand to enrich your career and life, and help inspire you to keep blogging for years to come.